(from New York Times, September 9, 2012) When it comes to baseball, the city of Washington knows about struggle. The joke about the city’s baseball is, “First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” Baseball franchises have left the city twice, but in 2004 Major League Baseball moved the Montreal Expos to Washington, naming them the Nationals. Although they started right where previous teams left off, (at the bottom of the standings) they have slowly built an excellent program. Washington, behind pitching phenomena Stephen Strasburg, currently has the best record in baseball. When does winning become more important than the health of a young player? That is the question Washington asked themselves before they decided to shut Strasburg down in a year that many fans hoped they would see their team win a world championship.
In 2010, Strasburg had reconstructive elbow surgery. To prevent the risk of re-injuring his arm, the Nationals placed a limit of 160 innings for this season. Some fans admire the organization putting a player’s safety first, but others think it will become a curse and a wasted opportunity. In an interview, Strasburg said to reporters, “It’s something that I’m not happy about at all. You don’t grow up dreaming of playing in the big leagues to get shut down when the games start to matter. It’s going to be a tough one to swallow.” Although Strasburg says his arm feels fine, his numbers in the last ten starts say otherwise. The Nationals General Manager, Mike Rizzo, was confident in his decision after seeing Strasburg’s last start, in which he lasted only three innings and allowed five runs on six hits. If a playoff series is on the line, would Rizzo lift the limit and let Strasburg pitch? That is just something the fans will have to watch and find out.